Tag Archives: Lawyers

A Day Of Reckoning For Jenny McCarthy, And Not Just For “John Tucker Must Die”

Frankie Thomas at New York Magazine:

One of the most famous flawed studies ever conducted, Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s now-retracted 1998 paper that linked vaccines to autism has been found to be not a scientific error, but a deliberate lie. BMJ, a British medical journal, has just published its investigation of the matter and concluded that Dr. Wakefield purposely falsified his data. They report that he was contracted by lawyers determined to sue the vaccine manufacturers, regardless of scientific truth.

Jonathan Adler:

A report by journalist Brian Deer in the British Journal of Medicine, the first in a series, reveals that the Wakefield study relied upon “bogus data” that was “manufactured” by those who conducted the study.  Specifically, Deer found that the study’s authors misrepresented medical and other information about the children in the study, including the timing and appearance of relevant symptoms, creating a false impression of a vaccine-autism link that was not there.

An accompanying editorial in the BMJ pulls no punches.

The Office of Research Integrity in the United States defines fraud as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism. Deer unearthed clear evidence of falsification. He found that not one of the 12 cases reported in the 1998 Lancet paper was free of misrepresentation or undisclosed alteration, and that in no single case could the medical records be fully reconciled with the descriptions, diagnoses, or histories published in the journal.

Who perpetrated this fraud? There is no doubt that it was Wakefield. Is it possible that he was wrong, but not dishonest: that he was so incompetent that he was unable to fairly describe the project, or to report even one of the 12 children’s cases accurately? No. A great deal of thought and effort must have gone into drafting the paper to achieve the results he wanted: the discrepancies all led in one direction; misreporting was gross. Moreover, although the scale of the [General Medical Council’s] 217 day hearing precluded additional charges focused directly on the fraud, the panel found him guilty of dishonesty concerning the study’s admissions criteria, its funding by the Legal Aid Board, and his statements about it afterwards. . . .

Meanwhile the damage to public health continues, fuelled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals, and the medical profession. Although vaccination rates in the United Kingdom have recovered slightly from their 80% low in 2003–4, they are still below the 95% level recommended by the World Health Organization to ensure herd immunity. In 2008, for the first time in 14 years, measles was declared endemic in England and Wales. Hundreds of thousands of children in the UK are currently unprotected as a result of the scare, and the battle to restore parents’ trust in the vaccine is ongoing.

(citations omitted)

Perhaps now, finally, the vaccine-autism charade is over. I’ll await the reports on Oprah and MSNBC’s “Countdown.”

mistermix:

Wakefield was employed by a lawyer who wanted to sue vaccine makers and was paid a total of £435 643, plus expenses. He “discovered” the autism-MMR link after being put on the payroll, but before doing any research at all.

Nick Gillespie at Reason

Kevin Drum:

The punchline, of course, is that parents panicked over Wakefield’s results and lots of them decided not to get their kids vaccinated. As a result:

Measles has surged since Wakefield’s paper was published and there are sporadic outbreaks in Europe and the U.S. In 2008, measles was deemed endemic in England and Wales.

The vaccine-autism quackery that Jenny McCarthy and her ilk continue to promote isn’t just harmless fun and games. It’s damaged untold children and might well have killed a few. It’s long past time for it to stop.

Ann Althouse:

What psychological suffering this man caused in so many vulnerable parents of little children! For a scientist to subvert science — why don’t we have a much more intense feeling of horror about that? How dare those trained in science to misuse it and undermine the enterprise of science? Our shared interest in science is so strong – our need to rely on experts so great — that we should severely punish those who betray it. But we can’t, really, can we? If we tried, we might only exacerbate the pressures on scientists to toe the line and give us the answers we want, lest we target them for destruction.

Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money

Max Read at Gawker:

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely it’ll do much to convince the conspiracy-minded, who are positive the pharmaceutical industry is covering up the real evidence that autism is caused by vaccines; like birtherism and other nutty beliefs, fear of vaccination is about strong feelings and not really about evidence. Which is too bad. Babies are dying of vaccine-preventable diseases, and people like Andrew Wakefield need to be held responsible.

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A Weapons System Not Yet Out Of Short Pants

Robert Farley at Lawyers Guns and Money:

I’ll have an article about the NPR coming out tomorrow at TAP, but suffice to say that I’m not particularly impressed with the Obama NPR. Every policy document requires compromise, and this is particularly true of a document focusing on nuclear weapons. A multitude of different agencies and vested interests have fingers in the pie, and each demands to be part of the decision-making process. In this case, the administration has managed to achieve a caveated-to-death no first use pledge at the cost of two apparent compromises; missile defense, and prompt global strike. Josh Rogin takes a look at the missile defense bit here; I raised some questions about the presence of prompt-global strike language back in the QDR, and suffice it to say that the NPR does not assuage my concerns. Prompt global strike is mentioned a several points in the NPR as a replacement for first strike nuclear capabilities and a large nuclear stockpile. While prompt global strike doesn’t necessarily mean conventionally armed SLBMs and ICBMs, nothing in the language of the NPR excludes such options. Prompt global strike sounds, on the surface, like a good idea; an Ohio class submarine could deliver a conventional warhead in half and hour to almost any target in the world. The devil is in the details; intel is rarely good enough to require such speed, and the possibility of conventional SLBMs being regularly launched from submerged subs would freak the hell out of the Chinese and the Russians. In other words, not such a good idea. Perhaps the thinking is that rhetorical support of the program now won’t necessarily mean appropriation for it later. If that’s true, I’m not sure that the history of the missile defense program is terribly comforting.

Noah Shachtman at Danger Room at Wired:

Over and over again, the Bush administration tried to push the idea of these conventional ICBMs. Over and over again, Congress refused to provide the funds for it. The reason was pretty simple: those anti-terror missiles look and fly exactly like the nuclear missiles we’d launch at Russia or China, in the event of Armageddon. “For many minutes during their flight patterns, these missiles might appear to be headed towards targets in these nations,” a congressional study notes. That could have world-changing consequences. “The launch of such a missile,” then-Russian president Vladimir Putin said in a state of the nation address after the announcement of the Bush-era plan, “could provoke a full-scale counterattack using strategic nuclear forces.”

The Pentagon mumbled all kinds of assurances that Beijing or Moscow would never, ever, never misinterpret one kind of ICBM for the other. But the core of their argument essentially came down to this: Trust us, Vlad Putin! That ballistic missile we just launched in your direction isn’t nuclear. We swear!

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld couldn’t even muster that coherent of a defense.

“Everyone in the world would know that [the missile] was conventional,” he said in a press conference, “after it hit within 30 minutes.”

The new “Prompt Global Strike” plan is a little different from the old one. It relies on land-based missiles, instead of sub-based ones. The idea is that these conventional missiles sites would be open to Russian inspection, and wouldn’t accidentally drop debris on a superpower.

But Moscow doesn’t exactly seem soothed by this new plan. “World states will hardly accept a situation in which nuclear weapons disappear, but weapons that are no less destabilizing emerge in the hands of certain members of the international community,” Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this month.

When the idea of Prompt Global Strike was first proposed, the goal was to hit anywhere on the planet in under an hour. Old-school weapons had proved ineffective at catch terrorists on the move. Newer, quicker arms might be able to do the job, instead. Flight tests for some of those weapons — like a hypersonic cruise missile — are just getting underway. Until then, relying on conventional ICBMs to do the job, and risking a nuclear showdown, is just plain crazy.

Yeah, I’m really not sure that changing to an atmospheric quasi-ballistic missile from SLBMs really helps. For one, the shift would somewhat reduce the promptness of the global strike (although probably not by much). More importantly, it doesn’t really solve the dilemma. If Putin/Medvedev/Hu/Whomever are inclined to worry that a detected launch was the prelude to an all-out nuclear attack, they’ll likely not be reassured by the news that it comes from some “special” location in the US. If the US decided to launch a preventive nuclear assault on Russia or China, wouldn’t we initiate the attack in the most deceptive way possible?

This isn’t to say that we should eschew research of any weapon that can decrease the time between order and KABOOM.
Questions of strategic stability, however, need to be taken very seriously. How willing would we be to use these weapons in a war over the Taiwan Straits? In response to another Russia-Georgia War? Or, perhaps even more disconcerting, what if we decided we needed to kill Osama Bin Laden with 30 minutes notice during the midst of a Russia-Georgia War that we were otherwise uninterested in?

Spencer Ackerman at The Washington Independent:

It’s an immature weapons system, barely in development, that looks for the moment like it was imagined by Wile E. Coyote. And the Nuclear Posture Review basically held it out as the conventional alternative to nuclear weapons.

Partly because elements of the technology behind Prompt Global Strike are “not yet even invented,” it’s hard to say what the system will ultimately cost or when it can be deployed. The New START accord with the Russians even had to limit its development because once launched from an intercontinental ballistic missile, it would be hard for Russia or any other power to determine with confidence that such a missile didn’t carry a nuclear payload.

Relatedly, here’s something that should warm Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R-Ariz.) New START-opponent heart but surely won’t: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a NATO forum that the U.S. won’t withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe until there’s a follow-on treaty with Russia ensuring the Russians will do the same.

Kevin Drum:

Even if the Russians and Chinese and Indians and Pakistanis are provided with some reliable way of identifying non-nuclear ICBM launches, they could never be sure that the United States hadn’t figured out some way to fool them. So they’d always be on a short fuse. And do we really want to make that particular fuse even shorter than it already is?

Sometimes bad ideas are just bad ideas. This really seems like one of them.

Matthew Yglesias:

The deeper issue, I would say, is that the pursuit of whiz-bang air power capabilities is often done with no thought as to the strategic implications. Every time we develop new offensive weapons designed to let us attack anywhere around the world with impunity, the more we’re incentivizing other countries to develop WMD capabilities to counter us. The mentality inside the Air Force is a sort of autopilot pursuit of better and better equipment that’s detached from any realistic vision of what we’re trying to achieve as a nation.

Tom Maguire:

The basic problem is that land-based missiles are vulnerable to a first strike attack by incoming missiles.  Consequently, anyone with land-based missiles, such as Russia or China, faces a “Use it or lose it” dilemma when their screen lights up with missiles launched from the US – do they wait to see what lands and goes “Boom”, or do they launch their own missiles while they still can?  This is not a new issue – people have been talking about first-strike weapons from the dawn of the nuclear age (It’s why we have hotlines).

Mitigating Russian concerns to some extent would be the number of missiles they actually see launched.   One or two missiles would not take out their entire land-based capability, so if (IF!) they could be confident of maintaining their command and control structure, they might be persuaded to sit back and await developments.

However!  All of that is covered by the Times.  What the Times utterly ignores, or overlooks, is the problem a weapon such as this would cause for Iran, North Korea or any other small crazy country with a much smaller nuclear arsenal.  The US weapon could be deployed around 2020.  Will North Korea or Iran have a missile or two capable of reaching the US by then?  If so, they will be stuck with the “Use it or lose it” problem, and may feel obliged to launch on warning.

Now, maybe the plan is that North Korea won’t develop the surveillance capability by 2020 to know whether we have launched our own missiles.  That’s reassuring!  Or maybe we can count on crazy countries not to do something crazy.  But this is a weapon that should not be built until these problems have been hashed through.

Legal Insurrection:

According to the article in The Times, the Russians and Chinese have a concern that these weapons could have a destabilizing effect because it would not be known if they carried a nuclear or conventional weapon, so if it is deployed, steps would need to be taken to make clear that they were non-nuclear.

That is all well and good. Verification with the Russians and Chinese to prevent a destabilizing effect is one thing. Counting conventional weapons the same as nuclear weapons, however, is nonsensical.

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“Remember, Remember The Fifth Of November”

Jon Ward at The Daily Caller:

The Republican Governor’s Association put out a video Friday that is a pretty slick piece of work.

It’s basically an 80-second movie trailer that casts President Obama as the villain of modern American politics, with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as his sidekick and henchman.

But it’s a pretty impressive piece of multimedia, especially since conservatives are generally thought of as being pretty lame in that realm. The music, editing, pacing and graphics are top notch. And an RGA spokesman told me they did it all in house with young RGA staff.

Micheal Scherer at Swampland at Time:

A few years back, two left-leaning writers, Andy and Lana Wachowski, adapted the story of Guy Fawkes, a Catholic radical who is remembered primarily for his failed attempt, on November 5, 1605, to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill King James I. The Wachowski brothers movie, V for Vendetta, made Fawkes the hero and presented the British crown as an oppressive dictatorship that was meant to echo, at least in technique, certain aspects of the administration of George W. Bush, down to the hooded prisoners, the orange jump suits and the unapologetic embrace of harsh interrogation techniques.

The meaning of Fawkes is, of course, not fixed. The Wachowski brothers’ retelling of the Fawkes’ story was later embraced by libertarian supporters of Ron Paul. During the 2008 campaign, “Remember, Remember The Fifth of November” became a rallying cry for Paul boosters, who shared at least some of the revolutionary fire of both Fawkes and the Wachowskis. On November 5, 2007, Guy Fawkes Day, Paul supporters raised more than $4 million online.

Now, the Fawkes mythology has come full circle. The Republican Governors Association has embraced the symbolism of Fawkes, launching a rather striking website, RememberNovember.com, with a video that showcases far more Hollywood savvy than one can usually expect from Republicans. Again, the Fawkes tale has been twisted a bit. This time, President Obama plays the roll of King James, the Democratic leadership is Parliament, and the Republican Party represents the aggrieved Catholic mass.

Allah Pundit:

I was tipped to this, incidentally, by Time magazine, which is pushing the angle that “Remember November” is a deliberate allusion to anti-government British terrorist Guy Fawkes. Which I guess qualifies this as some sort of “dog whistle” to the neo-McVeigh-ish wingnut base or whatever. Unless I missed something, though, there’s nothing in the vid itself nodding at Fawkes; the one and only supposed reference is the name of the website, and even that’s not quite right. The old rhyme about Fawkes is “remember, remember the fifth of November.” If I had to guess why the RGA chose the name they did, I’d inch out on the limb and conjecture that it’s because it rhymes, much like the phrase “We’ll remember in November” that the boss emeritus floated last week. But then, “it rhymes” is a much duller narrative than the GOP playing on “let’s blow up parliament” sentiment. I’d be interested in hearing Barbour’s thoughts on that. If he is purposely alluding to Fawkes, it’s both unwelcome and very politically stupid. Click the image to watch.

Remember November so that we can return America to its founding principles of freedom, personal responsibility and economic liberty. We Remember November so we, our children, and grandchildren can live with the freedoms our founding fathers intended.

You can sign your name to the list here.

UPDATE: The violent left believes the above video is a deliberate allusion to anti-government British terrorist Guy Fawkes.

Scott Johnson at Powerline

Instapundit

Lori Ziganto at Redstate:

Awesome. To me, it brings to mind my new favorite quote from a sign at a recent tea party rally:

“I can see November from my house.”

Well done, RGA. Well done.

Brad DeLong:

Remember, remember the fifth of November: gunpowder, treason and plot.

Remember: Guy Fawkes’s goal was to blow up the legislature of the Kingdom of England–the equivalent of crashing a hijacked jetliner into the Capitol while the House and Senate were in session.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

I find this completely bewildering. The Republican Governors Association is embracing the mantle of a 17th century radical who tried but failed to pull off a mass casualty terrorist attack to kill the King of England and all of Parliament. Only now Obama plays the role of James I. Guy Fawkes is their new hero?

Nothing shocks me anymore. But this shocks me.

Dave Noon at Lawyers Guns and Money:

I agree with Josh Marshall that this is pretty shocking, especially coming from people who can be counted on to yowl insanely every time a young poseur is photographed wearing a Che Guevara shirt to an anti-war rally. Never mind that the RGA has its history completely ass-backward; the cry of “WOLVERINES! “Remember November” has nothing to do with keeping Guy Fawkes’ aspirations alive but is, rather, intended to commemorate his execution and remind the English to be alert to treasonous conspirators in their midst.For fuck’s sake. Just imagine if liberals organized their opposition to Republican economic policies by trying to rally their base by commemorating the life and works of Leon Czolgosz.

UPDATE: Adam Sorensen at Swampland at Time

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You Already Know The Words To That Old Janis Joplin Song

David Boaz at Reason:

For many libertarians, “the road to serfdom” is not just the title of a great book but also the window through which they see the world. We’re losing our freedom, year after year, they think. They (we) quote Thomas Jefferson: “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” We read books with titles like Freedom in Chains, Lost Rights, The Rise of Federal Control over the Lives of Ordinary Americans, and yes, The Road to Serfdom.

The Cato Institute’s boilerplate description of itself used to include the line, “Since [the American] revolution, civil and economic liberties have been eroded.” Until Clarence Thomas, then chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, gave a speech at Cato and pointed out to us that it didn’t seem quite that way to black people.

And he was right. American public policy has changed in many ways since the American Revolution, sometimes in a libertarian direction, sometimes not.

[…]

Has there ever been a golden age of liberty? No, and there never will be. There will always be people who want to live their lives in peace, and there will always be people who want to exploit them or impose their own ideas on others. If we look at the long term—from a past that includes despotism, feudalism, absolutism, fascism, and communism—we’re clearly better off. When we look at our own country’s history—contrasting 2010 with 1776 or 1910 or 1950 or whatever—the story is less clear. We suffer under a lot of regulations and restrictions that our ancestors didn’t face.

But in 1776 black Americans were held in chattel slavery, and married women had no legal existence except as agents of their husbands. In 1910 and even 1950, blacks still suffered under the legal bonds of Jim Crow—and we all faced confiscatory tax rates throughout the postwar period.

I am particularly struck by libertarians and conservatives who celebrate the freedom of early America, and deplore our decline from those halcyon days, without bothering to mention the existence of slavery. Take R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., longtime editor of the American Spectator. In Policy Review (Summer 1987, not online), he wrote:

Let us flee to a favored utopia. For me that would be the late 18th Century but with air conditioning….With both feet firmly planted on the soil of my American domain, and young American flag fluttering above, tobacco in the field, I would relish the freedom.

I take it Mr. Tyrrell dreams of being a slave-owner. Because as he certainly knows, most of the people in those tobacco fields were slaves.

Take a more recent example, from a libertarian. Jacob Hornberger of the Future of Freedom Foundation writes about the decline of freedom in America:

First of all, let’s talk about the economic system that existed in the United States from the inception of the nation to the latter part of the 19th century. The principles are simple to enumerate: No income taxation (except during the Civil War), Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, economic regulations, licensure laws, drug laws, immigration controls, or coercive transfer programs, such as farm subsidies and education grants.

There was no federal department of labor, agriculture, commerce, education, energy, health and human services, or homeland security.

Then he writes:

Why did early Americans consider themselves free? The answer is rooted in the principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence. As Thomas Jefferson observed in that document, people have been endowed by their Creator with certain fundamental and inherent rights. These include, but are certainly not limited to, the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

But wait. Did “early Americans consider themselves free”? White Americans probably did. But what about black Americans, and especially the 90 percent of black Americans who were slaves? Slaves made up about 19 percent of the American population from 1790 to 1810, dropping to 14 percent by 1860. (In that period the number of slaves grew from 700,000 to about 4 million, but the rest of the population was growing even more rapidly.) Did Mr. Hornberger really forget that 4 million Americans were held in bondage when he waxed eloquent about how free America was until the late 19th century? I know he isn’t indifferent to the crime of slavery. But too many of us who extol the Founders and deplore the growth of the American state forget that that state held millions of people in chains. (I note that I’m not concerned here with self-proclaimed libertarians who join neo-Confederate organizations or claim that southerners established a new country and fought a devastating war for some reason other than the slavery on which their social and economic system rested; I just want to address libertarians who hate slavery but seem to overlook its magnitude in their historical analysis.)

Will Wilkinson:

What Boaz calls “thoughtless and ahistorical exhortations of our glorious libertarian past” is a central element of the fusionist conception of traditional American identity. But it’s just wrong. I call the syndrome of questionable conservative cultural assumptions and habits of thought that continue to pervade the libertarian movement the “fusionist hangover.” I say it’s time to sober up.

Eugene Volokh

Doug Mataconis at Below The Beltway:

Does that mean that the infringements of liberty and encroachment of the state that we see today is acceptable ? Of course not, but it does mean that we need to recognize that the idyllic American past never really existed and that the fight for liberty is a fight for the future, not the dead past.

Roy Edroso:

at Reason David Boaz suggests (albeit gently) that maybe America wasn’t more free, in the way libertarians like to think about it, back when it was full of slaves. The Perfesser reads Boaz’ piece, and is much more concerned with the tragic loss of American liberties under Jimmy Carter.

Also funny: the Hit & Run commenters to the story. I especially liked the guy who says the Donner Party was “perfectly libertarian” because “they were free to make a bad decision, made it, and suffered the consequences.” I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Mori Dinauer at Tapped:

Boaz points out the obvious omissions to this false nostalgia, women and slaves, and wisely asks of his fellow libertarians to have a little historical perspective: “Libertarians have not opposed those appeals for freedom, but too often we (or our forebears) paid too little attention to them. And one of the ways we do that is by saying ‘Americans used to be free, but now we’re not’ — which is a historical argument that doesn’t ring true to an awful lot of Jewish, black, female, and gay Americans.” It’s all well and good to have a conversation about whether taxation and the federal bureaucracy are infringing on freedom. But compared to the struggle to simply gain equal recognition as human beings — there’s simply no contest.

Jacob Hornberger at Reason:

Boaz raises another point that needs addressing: He attempts to diminish the significance of what our American forebears achieved.

It is true that the principles of liberty on which our ancestors founded the U.S. government were not applied to everyone, especially slaves; and there were, of course, other exceptions and infringements on freedom, such as tariffs and denying women the right to vote.

But should those exceptions and infringements prevent us from appreciating and honoring the fact that our ancestors brought into existence the freest, most prosperous, and most charitable society in history?

I don’t think so. I believe that it is impossible to overstate the significance of what our American ancestors accomplished in terms of a free society.

Let’s consider, say, the year 1880. Here was a society in which people were free to keep everything they earned, because there was no income tax. They were also free to decide what to do with their own money—spend it, save it, invest it, donate it, or whatever. People were generally free to engage in occupations and professions without a license or permit. There were few federal economic regulations and regulatory agencies. No Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, bailouts, or so-called stimulus plans. No IRS. No Departments of Education, Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor. No EPA and OSHA. No Federal Reserve. No drug laws. Few systems of public schooling. No immigration controls. No federal minimum-wage laws or price controls. A monetary system based on gold and silver coins rather than paper money. No slavery. No CIA. No FBI. No torture or cruel or unusual punishments. No renditions. No overseas military empire. No military-industrial complex.

As a libertarian, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a society that is pretty darned golden.

Will Wilkinson responds:

Nope. Sorry.

How about the female half of the population? By 1880 coverture laws, which basically denied married women any meaningful property rights, were still in place in many states. (Coverture laws persisted in some states until the 1920s.) And there were  plenty of further paternalistic regulations on the sort of work women were allowed to undertake. Of course, women in 1880 had almost no meaningful rights to political participation, ensuring that they were unable to demand recognition and protection of their basic liberty rights through the political system.

Slavery was gone in 1880, but systematic state-enforced racial apartheid was going strong. The economic and political rights of blacks were severely curtailed under the various antebellum state Black Codes and then under the Jim Crow laws. What formal rights Southern blacks did have were often denied in fact by extralegal enforcement of racist norms by lynch mobs and other campaigns of terror.

By 1880, most of the the U.S.’s imperialist efforts to secure North American territory against the claims of competing European imperial powers were complete. But the government’s campaign of murder, theft, and segregation against native populations continued.

One could go on and on in this vein in gruesome detail. But this is enough to establish the point: 1880’s America was a society in which well more than half the population was systematically and often brutally denied basic liberty rights. If that’s golden, I’d hate to see bronze.

It’s just plain wrongheaded to cast the libertarian project as the project of restoring lost liberties. Most people never had the liberties backward-looking libertarians would like to restore. I know the rhetoric of restoration can be very seductive, especially in a country unusually full (for a wealthy liberal democracy) of patriotic traditionalists. But restoration is a conservative project and liberty is a fundamentally progressive cause.

Boaz responds at Cato:

I am a great admirer of the Founders, as I write on many occasions. When I talk about the progress we’ve made in expanding freedom for blacks, women, gays, and other once-excluded groups of people, I often say that we have “extended the promises of the Declaration of Independence — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — to more and more people.” I love and respect those promises, I appreciate the extent to which the Founders made good on them immediately, and I am glad that they have indeed been extended.

I share Hornberger’s commitment to a world with no income tax, no alphabet soup agencies, no central banking, no drug laws, and so on. I’m just not sure that the world of 1880 — much less the world of 1850 — is actually more free, on balance, for Americans as a whole, than today’s world. But that’s a reasonable argument, and I am happy to engage Hornberger and others in it.

Of course, the world is full of unreasonable arguments, too. In case anyone’s been reading some of them in the Reason comments or elsewhere on the Web, let me make just a few comments: I did not “attack” or “malign” Jacob Hornberger; I criticized an article he wrote. In fact, I took pains to call him one of the “libertarians who hate slavery” in distinction to some self-styled libertarians who sound like neo-Confederates. I did not say that “we have to accept” the Civil War, anti-discrimination laws, the income tax, or anything else as the price of abolishing slavery; I just said that we shouldn’t overlook the crime of slavery when we write paeans to 19th-century freedom, and that on the whole we may very well be freer today than in antebellum America. I did not say that “it was necessary to reduce everyone’s freedom drastically before we can morally allow anyone to have more freedom than another.” Here’s a tip: If you’re shocked by what someone says my article said, please read the article.

OK, that’s all for this topic. I have a D.C. power-elite meeting to go to, and then a Georgetown cocktail party.

Arnold Kling:

I would rather live with the group-status configurations that we have today than with those that prevailed in 1880. For that matter, I would rather live with the plumbing and dentistry that we have today than that which prevailed in 1880. But it’s a swindle to suggest that if we had a libertarian polity we would be back in the days of Jim Crow or women’s subservience. Just as it is a swindle to suggest that if we had a libertarian polity we would be back to using outhouses and having our teeth pulled without anesthetic.

If what you really, really care about are group-status issues, and you really, really think that those battles should be fought politically rather than culturally, and if you are really, really scared of where you think some older Americans stand on those group-status issues, then you can end up where Will Wilkinson is–deeply frightened of the Tea Party movement in spite of its libertarian focus. In that case, your plan is to slip something into the ruling intellectuals’ drink to make them amenable to your free-market seductions.

Wilkinson responds to Kling:

What I really, really care about is liberty. If the culture and the law denies liberty to some groups, then I think we ought to fight culturally and politically to win equal freedom for the members of those groups. If people have been denied liberty on the basis of group membership, caring about liberty then entails caring about the “group status issues” standing behind historical oppression.

I am not scared of the fact that older Americans are more racist, sexist, and homophobic that younger Americans. I regard this as a hopeful sign that historic inequalities in status and freedom are on their way out. And I’m not frightened of the Tea Party movement (which is not especially old.) In fact, I hope it helps deliver divided government by helping Republicans win a bunch of seats. I just don’t think it’s very substantively libertarian. It is a populist movement centered on a certain conservative conception of traditional American identity. Libertarian rhetoric is definitely part of that, but rhetoric is rhetoric.

By contrasting the Tea Party with “ruling intellectuals,” Arnold seems to recognize that it is as a populist movement, and he seems to prefer it for that reason. But, contrary to what Arnold implies, a distaste for conservative identity politics and a disinclination to see much real libertarian potential in the Tea Party does not leave the libertarian with no alternative but to “slip something into the ruling intellectuals’ drink to make them amenable to your free-market seductions.” One thing a libertarian might do is to publicly set forth persuasive arguments that over time shifts the balance of both elite and popular opinion. Why Arnold thinks that straightforward persuasion is possible only through some kind of subterfuge or seduction eludes me.

It is true, though, that you’re more likely to be taken seriously by “ruling intellectuals,” and lots of other people besides, if you acknowledge that the rights and liberties of women and historically persecuted minorities really do count. And rightly so. But I have the sense that Arnold thinks that this is not rightly so, and that a libertarian would only acknowledge this sort of “group status issue” strategically, as a way of sucking up to elites so that they will be more likely to listen to your free-market ideas. Please tell me I’m wrong Arnold.

John Holbo:

Obviously Kling and Hornberger could not have done a better job of proving Boaz’ original point. It’s tempting to accuse them of just not caring about liberty for anyone except white men. How else could they miss this stuff? But I doubt that’s it. (Anyway, aren’t they Jewish? It’s hard for me to imagine men named Kling and Hornberger seriously believe they, personally, would be made more free by being transported back to the late 19th Century.) It seems to me the most probable explanation of this truly bizarre blind spot – it really is bizarre and there’s no other word for it – is a sort of strange entrapment in the conservative ‘restoration’ narrative, but perhaps induced by Hayekian rather than conservative rhetoric. If the 20th Century was the Road To Serfdom, it can hardly have been a long march to increased freedom. If progressives and liberals are the authoritarian enemy, it can hardly be that their victories have, on the whole, made us more free. Since the 20th Century was when the bad stuff really got going, how can it NOT be appropriate to be thoroughly nostalgic for the 1880’s as a Lost Golden Age?

I guess I’ll leave it at that. Libertarians really ought to know better than to try to argue against the utterly obvious points Boaz made in that post. That’s just basic intellectual hygiene, surely.

Orestes Brownson at FrumForm:

Fair enough; one can easily see that ending slavery certainly ought to have been a libertarian end.  However, it was accomplished with stunningly anti-libertarian means (not that I’m complaining; I’m not a libertarian), and by a political coalition — the Republican coalition — that held no other libertarian ends.

Look, the Republican party was anti-free trade, for “corporate welfare” to railroads, for a national bank, for expansive executive powers, and wanted to use the federal government’s powers to ban marriages not between one man and one woman during the polygamy controversy.  Once the Civil War was over, they pretty much got what they wanted.

So, some liberties and alleged liberties went by the wayside, to create a greater liberty.  ”A new birth of freedom,” even.  But what I don’t see among a lot of libertarians today is the same willingness to make tactical compromises to accomplish their greater ends.

Mark Kleiman:

The main occupation of the U.S. Army between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the Spanish-American war was “Indian fighting,” or, as we call it today, “ethnic cleansing.” Of course Wilkinson blames it all on “the government,” as if much of the work hadn’t been done by free individuals exercising their right to keep and bear arms in defense of the private property they were engaged in stealing.

But even if we look only at heterosexual males of European descent, and even if we agree to treasure such rights as the right to grow up without schooling and to be free of employment discrimination against eight-year-olds, the right to consume adulterated food and drugs, and the right to starve to death if incapacitated from earning a living by misfortune, disease, or old age, in one respect the 1880s were much less free than, say, the 1950s. In 1880 any attempt to form a labor union was treated by the courts as a criminal conspiracy. It was also likely to be met with extra-legal violence by the Pinkertons (and sometimes the national guard). Today, however, the right of workers to organize is an internationally-recognized human right (except in El Salvador and Libertarianland).

In practice, the right to unionize has been under siege from union-busing consultants, aided by capital mobility and a complaisant NLRB. But even post-Reagan, American workers remain free, in principle, to try to bargain collectively with their employers. This is not, of course, a right that libertarians cherish; Brink Lindsey lists the collapse of private-sector unions as a gain for liberty. But the utter helplessness of a railway worker, textile operator, or coal miner of the 1880s (who enjoyed, thanks the the “fellow sevant” doctrine, the right to be injured at work without receiving compensation) in the face of the tyranny of the boss and the foreman is not a condition to which all of us aspire to return.

Daniel McCarthy at The American Conservative:

Which model provides a better starting point? Should a libertarian prefer a decentralized republic along broadly Jeffersonian lines, but without slavery and government discrimination (though this may mean tolerating private discrimination) or a large and centralized rights-enforcing government akin to the New Deal state but with an emphasis on personal liberties instead of redistribution? And of these two models, is one more inclined than the other to decay into its illiberal form? That is, would slavery or segregation re-emerge in a restored Jeffersonian republic more readily than redistribution and other evils would arise in a purified New Deal state?

It seems to me that the tutelary ambit of the modern progressive state logically inclines toward providing for the basic material necessities of its wards as well as for the protection of their rights, and to ensure provision of needs and protection of rights a great educational apparatus may be desirable. The freedom of the tutelary state is the freedom of a free-range dairy cow: in exchange for care and protection, you pay your taxes and may frolic in the fields as much as you please. It’s a timid sort of freedom, but it is freedom of a kind.

An alternative based on the older American tradition, by contrast, need not logically lead to a slave-state; indeed, most of the Founders recognized that slavery was inconsistent with the principles of their system. That system, even in its most benign form, would not be purely libertarian, of course: there too state schools would be desired to inculcate proper values into republican citizens. Private discrimination would be permissible, and if states or localities adopted unfair or unjust laws, one would have little recourse to federal remedies. But you could move to a different jurisdiction more in keeping with your ideas of liberty. It’s an uneven but robust freedom.

This is what libertarians who laud the old America have in mind. Why slander them as being ignorant of slavery, when liberaltarians do not want to be slandered as social democrats? If the socio-political order that libertarians like Hornberger desire really does naturally incline toward the sorts of injustices Boaz names, then make that case and argue against the model on those grounds. But I don’t think Boaz even believes that, let alone that he can present a convincing argument for it. On the other hand, those who believe that the modern state naturally tilts toward social democracy or worse have frequently and cogently made their case –not least in that “great book” Boaz mentions in his first paragraph, The Road to Serfdom.

Jason Kuznicki at The League:

We can only think to ask such a question if we radically discount the experiences of nearly all other people in society. And this violates one of the fundamental formulations of libertarian political thought, the law of equal freedom:

Every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.

Language issues aside, under a standard like this, it’s impossible to justify, for example, the fact that marital rape was never a crime in the nineteenth century. Or that women surrendered all of their property, present and future, to their husbands at marriage. Or that women at marriage couldn’t have a legal place of residence separate from their husbands. Or that children were presumed in law to belong solely to the husband, and never to the wife. Or that (contra Bryan Caplan) contracts between husband and wife were typically invalid under law, so one couldn’t escape the shackles by contracting around them with a well-intentioned husband. Or that cohabitation without marriage — another attempt to escape the bind — was plain illegal. Or that divorce was exceptionally hard to obtain.

To put it bluntly, the white men of 1880 were for the most part brutes and tyrants. Even if they didn’t want to be, the law forced them. They either claimed, or had foisted upon them, all kinds of “freedoms” that intrinsically infringed on other people. And I’m not even talking about what they did to blacks in the South or Asians in the West, though I easily could.

I certainly wouldn’t want everyone today to be in the same position that white men had in 1880. Putting them there would require that we find some rather large population for them to personally oppress, to rape, to steal property from, and to hold in permanent thrall.

Neither slave nor master has any place at all in utopia.

Bryan Caplan:

I largely agree with David Boaz’s recent attack on libertarian nostaglia.  While many Americans were freer in the Gilded Age than they are today, plenty were not.  But precisely who belongs on the list of people who have more libertarian freedom in 2010 than they did in 1880?

Boaz mentions “Jews, blacks, women, and gay people.”  For blacks, his case is obvious and overwhelming: Slavery was finally over, but blacks still suffered from both Jim Crow and private racist brutality.  The case for gays is similarly strong: If you were openly gay in 1880, you probably would have been prosecuted under the sodomy laws – and lived in fear of private violence even if the law left you alone.  However, it’s hard to see why Jews belong on the “freer than they used to be” side of the ledger; 19th-century America not only had legal religious toleration, but as far as I’m aware, pogroms and other private anti-Semitic violence were virtually absent.

It’s when we get to women, though, that things get interesting.  Women are more than half the population.  If they’re freer today than they were in the Gilded Age, we can truly say that most people in America are freer today than they were before the rise of the welfare state.  On reflection, though, this is a very big if.

Without a doubt, women lived much harder lives in 1880 than they do today.  So did men.  In those days, almost everyone endured long hours of back-breaking toil.  But of course the standard libertarian take on this is that while freedom causes prosperity in the long-run, prosperity and freedom aren’t the same.

In what ways, then, were American women in 1880 less free than men?  Most non-libertarians will naturally answer that women couldn’t vote.  But from a libertarian point of view, voting is at most instrumentally valuable.  Will Wilkinson seems aware of this when he writes:

[W]omen in 1880 had almost no meaningful rights to political participation, ensuring that they were unable to demand recognition and protection of their basic liberty rights through the political system.
Yet the fact that women were unable to vote in defense of their “basic liberty rights” doesn’t show that American political system denied them these rights.  Did it?

Caplan responds to critics. More Caplan and more Caplan. And even more Caplan

Will Wilkinson:

Kerry Howley sensibly suggests that we approach the question of how much “libertarian freedom” women enjoyed in the late 19th century by looking to see what a libertarian woman of that era had to say about it.

Kerry suggests this passage from Voltairine de Cleyre’s Sex Slavery (1890):

He beheld every married woman what she is, a bonded slave, who takes her master’s name, her master’s bread, her master’s commands, and serves her master’s passion; who passes through the ordeal of pregnancy and the throes of travail at his dictation, not at her desire; who can control no property, not even her own body, without his consent, and from whose straining arms the children she bears may be torn at his pleasure, or willed away while they are yet unborn.

I would not characterize this as an illustration of one form “libertarian freedom” might take. But Bryan Caplan might persist in arguing that women were in some sense free to opt out of this sort tyrannical arrangement. If de Cleyre could opt out, other women could as well, right? I don’t think it’s that easy. Bryan is unjustifiably ignoring the developmental prerequisites for autonomous or robustly voluntary choice. One way to deny an individual the ability to choose really freely is to raise her in a way that constantly cultivates and reinforces a set of preferences and expectations that fit comfortably within a social and legal order of paternalistic control and systematic inequality of status and rights.

One time-honored criticism of paternalism is that it infantilizes adults and leaves them unprepared to make wise choices on their own behalf, thereby reinforcing paternalistic laws and norms by making them seem necessary. I wonder if Bryan thinks this is an ineffective criticism of paternalism? I take it that he would be unwilling to endorse slavery even if slaves could be conditioned from childhood to consent to their chains?

John Holbo on Caplan:

Having made one non-libertarian-related post, I can now say, with a good conscience, that Bryan Caplan has responded to his critics. It is a wonder to behold.

I will make two notes. (No doubt you yourself will come to have your own favorite moments.) First, a lot of the trouble here obviously rotates around the issue of systematic social oppression. Caplan barrels straight through like so: “there’s a fundamental human right to non-violently pressure and refuse to associate with others.” That hardly speaks to real concerns about violence. But beyond that Caplan doesn’t notice that, even if he’s right about this fundamental human right, he’s no longer even defending the proposition that women were more free in the 1880’s, never mind successfully defending it. He’s defending the proposition that there is a fundamental right, which can be exercised, systematically, to make women much less free, that was better protected in the 1880’s. So if women value this libertarian right more than freedom, they might rationally prefer that sort of society. But even so, they should hardly regard themselves as more free, for enjoying this right. Rather, they should regard themselves as (rationally) sacrificing liberty, a lesser value, for love of libertarianism, a higher value and separate jar of pickles altogether

DJW at Lawyers, Guns and Money

Matt Steinglass at DiA at The Economist

Tyler Cowen:

Bryan Caplan set off a debate which has spread to many corners of the blogosphere.  I have no interest in recapping and evaluating the whole thing but I’d like to make a simple but neglected point: negative liberty and positive liberty are not separable.

Here is one simple scenario.  Let’s say the government tells me I have to buy and place a five-foot ceramic grizzly bear statue on my front lawn.  How bad an act of coercion is that?  If I have an upper-middle class income, it’s an inconvenience and an aesthetic blight but no great tragedy.  If I have a Haitian per capita income, it is a very bad act of coercion and it will impinge on my life prospects severely.  I either give up some food or they send me to jail.

In other words, even theories of negative liberty — purely libertarian theories where only negative liberty seems to matter — require standards for degrees of coercion.  Those standards will very often depend on how much wealth the victims of the coercion have and they will depend on a more general concept of positive liberty.  Negative liberty standards can’t help but seep into a concern with consequences.

Fast forward to said debate.  When people are poor, apparently small interventions can be quite crushing and quite coercive.  To cite the “smaller” interventions of 1880 doesn’t much convince me.  The real impact of the depredations against women was very, very large, even from some “small interventions” (and I don’t think they were all small).

(Also, I would not in this case take the *legal* oppressions to be a stand-alone or exogenous variable, separable from more general societal attitudes.  There were various male desires to oppress women, which took a mix of legal and non-legal forms.  Asking how bad the “government-only” restrictions were is an odd division of the problem, since the governmental and non-governmental restrictions were an integrated package which worked together in non-linear fashion.)

Every negative liberty theorist is a positive liberty theorist in disguise and this comes out once they start citing degress of outrage, degrees of harm, degrees of coercion, and the like.

UPDATE: More Holbo

1 Comment

Filed under Feminism, Go Meta, History

There Was A Very Heavy Fog Of War Today

Warning: Above video is not for children.

BBC:

WikiLeaks has posted a video on its website which it claims shows the killing of civilians by the US military in Baghdad in 2007.

The website’s organisers say they were given the footage, which they say comes from cameras on US Apache helicopters.

They say they decrypted it, but would not reveal who gave it to them.

The WikiLeaks site campaigns for freedom of information and posts leaked documents online. There has been no Pentagon response to the video so far.

High-quality video

The video, released on Monday, is of high quality and appears to be authentic, the BBC’s Adam Brookes in Washington says.

It is accompanied by a recording of the pilots’ radio transmissions and those of US troops on the ground.

The video shows a street in Baghdad and a group of about eight people, whom the helicopter pilots deem to be insurgents.

It then shows the individuals on the street being shot dead with the Apache’s cannon.

Then, a van drives onto the scene, and its occupants appear to start picking up the wounded.

It, too, is fired upon. Altogether, around 12 people die. Two children appear to be injured.

Dan Froomkin at Huffington Post:

None of the members of the group were taking hostile action, contrary to the Pentagon’s initial cover story; they were milling about on a street corner. One man was evidently carrying a gun, though that was and is hardly an uncommon occurrence in Baghdad.

Reporters working for WikiLeaks determined that the driver of the van was a good Samaritan on his way to take his small children to a tutoring session. He was killed and his two children were badly injured.

In the video, which Reuters has been asking to see since 2007, crew members can be heard celebrating their kills.

“Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” says one crewman after multiple rounds of 30mm cannon fire left nearly a dozen bodies littering the street.

A crewman begs for permission to open fire on the van and its occupants, even though it has done nothing but stop to help the wounded: “Come on, let us shoot!”

Two crewmen share a laugh when a Bradley fighting vehicle runs over one of the corpses.

And after soldiers on the ground find two small children shot and bleeding in the van, one crewman can be heard saying: “Well, it’s their fault bringing their kids to a battle.”

The helicopter crew, which was patrolling an area that had been the scene of fierce fighting that morning, said they spotted weapons on members of the first group — although the video shows one gun, at most. The crew also mistook a telephoto lens for a rocket-propelled grenade

Andrew Sullivan posts a reader’s e-mail:

A reader writes:

Soldiers are trained to kill and sometimes in the heat of combat they will engage in killings that are not strictly justified, for example, at Haditha.  But this — all of it — was simply gratuitous and the killing of the wounded journalist and the shooting up of the minivan trying to pick him up to save his life went beyond gratuitous and was just plain sadistic murder.

Forty years ago, when Charlie Company went into My Lai to inflict some collective punishment, a helicopter pilot watching from above saw the carnage and did something to stop it.  Nowadays, helicopter pilots make movies of their killings and beg a wounded man to make a suspect move so they can pump more 1 1/4″ rounds into him.  How completely depraved.

I served four years in the Armed Forces of the United States and was always proud of my service.  Not anymore.

Casual Observer at Firedoglake:

This video (Origin Wikileaks via arabic_news on Twitter) will speak for itself, just a couple of comments.

First, Greenwald has a related post up today regarding the chronic nature and scope of American war propaganda currently holding sway in our media. Highly recommended.

Second, President Obama just minutes ago tweeted that he is planning on “Opening the 2010 baseball season with the first pitch at Nationals Park today.”

The disconnect between our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and our awareness of them here at home is staggering.

John Cole:

They engaged several Reuters photographers, claiming the cameras were weapons, giggling the whole time. Then, when a van came to pick up the wounded, they claimed they were going for weapons and got permission to shoot the people picking up victims.

Fog of war, bitches. Fog of war.

Charli Carpenter at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

I will definitely be using this film in my class next year. But as an example of what I haven’t decided.

The disjuncture between the images captured by the camera and the information being verbally reported by the helicopter crew is striking. (For example, the crew reports that they are seeing adult males armed with AK47s, but the men on the ground appear unarmed.) Could the film be a fake, and how would we know? (Wikileaks has provided almost no information on its website about the video’s source other than a non-working link. The big “Click here to donate” link above the video on the Wikileaks site works fine, which is troubling.)

I am not saying I don’t believe some Apache gunners made gross errors and the military covered it up, only that user-generated content should always be verified before conclusions are drawn, and Wikileaks’ confidentiality policies make that difficult.

If the footage is completely genuine, what cognitive process is at work here that is leading the pilots to so drastically misinterpret what they are seeing? Or are they in fact wilfully mischaracterizing it and why?

What fascinates me the most is the almost relaxed professionalism with which the chopper crew and ground troops are operating. Does this allow us to infer anything about the rules of engagement US troops were operating with around that time? What can we infer from such footage that can help us in other low-intensity conflicts?

One thing is certain: this doesn’t look like a “firefight with insurgents” that the DoD claimed. BBC has a story about the video with some useful links. Michael Collins at The Agonist has more.

Richard Oppel in NYT:

After initially denying involvement or any cover-up in the deaths of three Afghan women during a badly bungled American Special Operations assault in February, the American-led military command in Kabul admitted late on Sunday that its forces had, in fact, killed the women during the nighttime raid.

The admission immediately raised questions about what really happened during the Feb. 12 operation — and what falsehoods followed — including a new report that Special Operations forces dug bullets out of the bodies of the women to hide the nature of their deaths.

A NATO official also said Sunday that an Afghan-led team of investigators had found signs of evidence tampering at the scene, including the removal of bullets from walls near where the women were killed. On Monday, however, a senior NATO official denied that any tampering had occurred.

The disclosure could not come at a worse moment for the American military: NATO officials are struggling to contain fallout from a series of tirades against the foreign military presence by the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who has also railed against the killing of civilians by Western forces.

Matt Steinglass at DiA at The Economist:

When one hears about something like this, it forces one to think about what the essential character of the American intervention in Afghanistan is. It’s possible to contextualise this sort of slaughter of innocents and subsequent mendacity as accidental collateral violence, followed by terrified stupidity. Perhaps these kinds of incidents are inevitable in war, and should not undermine America’s dedication to the overall effort. Or perhaps they can be prevented through technical measures; as Spencer Ackerman points out, General Stanley McChrystal has curtailed night-time raids and taken closer personal control over special-forces operations precisely to avoid any further such mistakes.

Or, on the other hand, this kind of unfortunate waste of human life may be the basic shape of the NATO intervention, while the noble mission of beating back misogynistic theocracy and building a stable, reasonably democratic government is in fact a fantastical utopian sideshow. This was the fundamental shape of the moral argument that rent American politics in two during the Vietnam war. The men who could never forgive John Kerry for his testimony before Congress were infuriated because he treated the war’s pointless slaughter and periodic atrocities as its essential character. In the view of many who fought, including many South Vietnamese, those things were collateral damage; most of those who fought were honourable, and the fundamental cause was just. But history has sided with Mr Kerry: the pointless slaughter was the essence of the Vietnam war, while the cause of a free and democratic South Vietnam was a weird fantasy.

Spencer Ackerman at Washington Independent:

The statement has a vague explanation for the February report about the women being bound and gagged: “this information was taken from an initial report by the international members of the joint force who were not familiar with Islamic burial customs.” Presumably that means the women were shrouded, but that’s hard to square with U.S. forces being responsible for the actual killing. Additionally, The New York Times further reports that the “lack of forensic evidence” about those dead women civilians may be attributable to Special Operations Forces digging “bullets out of the bodies of the women to hide the nature of their deaths.”

Last month, McChrystal, himself a former Special Operations commander, took greater control over the Special Operations chain of command in Afghanistan. McChrystal’s move was an attempt to end a semi-autonomous war effort that can too often place a giant asterisk on his strategy of prosecuting the war through protecting the civilian population. One area he apparently left untouched is detention operations. Will there be further clarifications in the future about ultimately-untrue statements about the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan?

Glenn Greenwald:

What is clear — yet again — is how completely misinformed and propagandized Americans continue to be by the American media, which constantly “reports” on crucial events in Afghanistan by doing nothing more than mindlessly and unquestioningly passing along U.S. government claims as though they are fact.  Here, for instance, is how the Paktia incident was “reported” by CNN on February 12:

Note how the headline states as fact that the women were dead as the result of an “honor killing.”

[…]

All of this is a chronic problem, not an isolated one, with war reporting generally and events in Afghanistan specifically.  Just consider what happened when the U.S. military was forced in 2008 to retract its claims about a brutal air raid in Azizabad.  The Pentagon had vehemently denied the villagers’ claim that close to 100 civilians had been killed and that no Taliban were in the vicinity:  until a video emerged proving the villagers’ claims were true and the Pentagon’s false.  Last week, TPM highlighted a recent, largely overlooked statement from Gen. McChrystal, where he admitted, regarding U.S. killings of Afghans at check points:  “to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I’ve been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it. . . . We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.”  And as I documented before, the U.S. media constantly repeats false Pentagon claims about American air attacks around the world in order to create the false impression that Key Terrorists were killed while no civilians were.

UPDATE: On the Iraq story, Ed Morrissey:

In the video, starting at the 3:50 mark, one member of this group starts preparing what clearly looks like an RPG launcher, as well as some individuals with AK-47s. The launcher then reappears at the 4:06 mark as the man wielding it sets up a shot for down the street. In 2007 Baghdad, this would be a clear threat to US and Iraqi Army ground forces; in fact, it’s difficult to imagine any other purpose for an RPG launcher at that time and place. That’s exactly the kind of threat that US airborne forces were tasked to detect and destroy, which is why the gunships targeted and shot all of the members of the group.

Another accusation is that US forces fired on and killed rescue workers attempting to carry one of the journalists out of the area. However, the video clearly shows that the vehicle in question bore no markings of a rescue vehicle at all, and the men who ran out of the van to grab the wounded man wore no uniforms identifying themselves as such. Under any rules of engagement, and especially in a terrorist hot zone like Baghdad in 2007, that vehicle would properly be seen as support for the terrorists that had just been engaged and a legitimate target for US forces.  While they didn’t grab weapons before getting shot, the truth is that the gunships didn’t give them the chance to try, either — which is exactly what they’re trained to do.  They don’t need to wait until someone gets hold of the RPG launcher and fires it at the gunship or at the reinforcements that had already begun to approach the scene.  The gunships acted to protect the approaching patrol, which is again the very reason we had them in the air over Baghdad.

War correspondents take huge risks to bring news of a war to readers far away.  What this shows is just how risky it is to embed with terrorists, especially when their enemy controls the air.  War is not the same thing as law enforcement; the US forces had no responsibility for identifying each member of the group and determining their mens rea.  Legitimate rescue operations would have included markings on the vehicle and on uniforms to let hostile forces know to hold fire, and in the absence of that, the hostile forces have every reason to consider the second support group as a legitimate target as well.   It’s heartbreaking for the families of these journalists, but this isn’t “collateral murder” — it’s war.

The Jawa Report:

They’ve even embedded it on a site they call “Collateral Murder.”

These people are beyond stupid, they’re evil.

Worst case scenario this is a few innocent being accidentally killed in the fog of war.

But the video doesn’t even appear to be worst case scenario. It appears, in fact, that the video shows armed insurgents engaging or about to engage US troops. The Reuters camera men had embedded themselves with the insurgents. This makes them enemy combatants themselves and should have been shot.

Reuters has a long history of its local stringers embedding themselves with terrorist forces. Perhaps they do this because they are sympathetic, perhaps they do this to get “the story“, but it matters little to those engaging insurgents.

When you embed yourselves with terrorists you know the risk. You are producing propaganda for them. You have become one of them.

Anything less than this understanding is purposeful naivite about “objective journalism”. In war there can be no objective journalism. You’re either with us or the enemy. If you want to stay neutral stay out of the war zone.

As for those who went in to pick up the bodies? Perhaps they were innocents. I’ve no idea.

But you drive your van into an active military engagement? What the hell were you thinking?

You are stupid. Innocent, but stupid. You’re asking to be killed.

And if you brought children into the midsts of an ongoing military engagement that makes you more than stupid: it makes you criminally negligent.

“It’s their fault for bringing their kids to a battle,” says one of the Americans on the video. Indeed it is.

People, this is war. This happens in war. It can’t be avoided. If you want to end civilian casualties then end war. Start by asking armed Islamists to put down their weapons. But you won’t do that because your real objection isn’t war, it’s America. Which is why anti-war activists around the globe never protest al-Qaeda, only America.

They’re not anti-war, they’re anti-American.

Gregg Carlstrom at The Majlis:

There are really two separate issues connected to this incident. One is the cover-up — opening fire on the ambulance, the Pentagon’s refusal to divulge how these people were killed, or to release the video — which is simply inexcusable.

And the attack itself? If you watch the entire video, one or two of the men in the square certainly appear to be armed (though it’s hard to tell from low-resolution gunsight video). Chmagh and Noor-Eldeen presumably knew the risks of standing with armed men in a public square in Baghdad in 2007, and the pilots presumably were on edge (east Baghdad was the site of a major coalition offensive at the time).

None of the men move to engage the helicopter, though; they’re not “committing hostile acts” or “exhibiting hostile intent,” the two conditions under which U.S. forces were authorized to use lethal force in 2007.

Clearly the second condition includes a lot of wiggle room — but I’ve watched the video twice, and I’m hard-pressed to identify anything in the video that appears to be hostile intent. The Apache also made no attempt to “use graduated measures of force” — warning shots, for example — as required by the rules of engagement that were in effect in 2007.

UPDATE #2: Sullivan with a round-up

Bill Roggio at TWS. More Roggio

James Fallows

James Joyner

David Kenner at Foreign Policy

Matthew Yglesias

Brian Doherty at Reason

UPDATE #3: Jawa Report

Megan McArdle

UPDATE #4: Stephen Colbert

Jawa Report on Colbert

Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite on Colbert

Jules Crittenden on Colbert

Moe Lane on Colbert

UPDATE #5: On the arrest, Uncle Jimbo of Blackfive

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker

2 Comments

Filed under Af/Pak, GWOT, Iraq

Cartoon Wars: Episode V – The Academia Strikes Back

Darleen Click at Protein Wisdom:

Oh I know I’m going to get called names on this. But I’m not going to play that game anymore. Like the sign at one of the TEA parties that said “it doesn’t matter what this sign says, you going to call it racist anyway.” When even the lawsuits now being brought by 30 plus state AG’s is considered racist, it is time to stop playing that game.

I’m flipping outraged even more so by Obama’s “victory lap” where he pretends this crap-sandwich is what “The American People were begging for”. Not one bit of graciousness in his “victory” but that nose up arrogance as his Social Democrats were literally breaking out the champagne.

I expect this will also flush out the usual Stockholm-syndrome “conservatives” who wring their hands and say “oh you can’t say that! People will take offense!”

Heck, I want to shake them up. This is supposed to be a post-racial era? Then deal with the fact that the President of the United States is the head of a gang that just raped our American principles.

I made it a cartoon and not a photoshop and the “woman” is green. Deal, people.

Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom:

I’m getting a bit fed up with the insistence by statists that because they populate the arts and the academy, they have some kind of death grip on “hip.” For instance, here’s Nishi, whose only hope of ever really touching cool would be to pay somebody to fuck her once with an ice dong:

Doughy Pantsload aka Jonah Goldberg is the antithesis of cool …. .he doesnt even get that there is NO CULTURE WAR …. there is only an evolution of culture event like glaciation or the extinction event at the K-T boundary. And the “classic liberals” are trying to build a snowfence out of pitchforks and torches to hold off a cultural glacier of liberal memes.
Where are the conservative professors, filmmakers, comics, scientists, actors, artists?
they don’t exist.
🙂

So. Let me give this “argument” a go.

Where are the conservative professors, filmmakers, comics, scientists, actors, artists? They’ve been out learning to shoot, honey.

But you’re right: Those punk rock “liberal memes” we buttoned-up dorks are trying desperately to hold back are the epitome of hepness and popularity — the “glaciating” endpoint of cultural evolution as it pertains to maintaining a permanent hold on (the oxymoronic notion of) mainstream hipster culture. I mean, what teen in his rebellious stage isn’t going to embrace the edgy cries of, “all our shower heads are uniform in pressure!”, or “hell no, we won’t go (to restaurants that cook with table salt)!”. Why, it’s just like following the Dead around the country!

Face it, Nishi. The statist scolds — offering soulless progressivism repackaged in the language of freedom — will only hold power so long as they can maintain the euphemisms.

SEK at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

What do you do in the wake of a crushing political defeat?

If you’re Jeff Goldstein, you declare yourself to be way cooler than everyone else; if you’re Darleen Click, you draw a cartoon in which the President rapes a woman, then tells her that he and friends will be back to rape her again later. In the clinical sense, Click is the more interesting case because she thinks that the only problem with her cartoon is that it’s racist. I repeat: she drew a cartoon in which the punch line is a gang rape and the only potential problem with it she can see is that it might be racist. Don’t misunderstand me: it’s plenty racist—plays into tropes as old as slavery and everything—but the punch line is that the President and his associates are going to gang-rape the Statue of Liberty with, I kid you not, immigration reform.

In service of the cheapest of laughs, Click asserts that the statue that symbolizes America’s commitment to the tired, poor, huddled masses of the world is about to be raped because of the President’s commitment to those selfsame masses-yearning-to-be-free. Talk about your industrial grade ideological incoherence—and I would, except for the fact that Goldstein, never one to be upstaged on his own blog, told a woman that the only way she would ever be cool was if someone raped her with an icicle. That’s not true, though. Goldstein never said that. What he said, and I quote, was:

For instance, here’s Nishi, whose only hope of ever really touching cool would be to pay somebody to fuck her once with an ice dong.

Such are the depths to which Goldstein sinks to maintain the illusion that he’s cool, which is sad, you know, because he’s a middle-aged man worried about whether people think he’s cool. Then, in yet another example of just how over me he is, he declares me to be the exemplar of uncool.  Far be it for me, a 32-year-old blogger who sports a backwards Mets cap and is currently writing a scholarly book about comics, to complain when someone says I’m not cool, because honestly, I’m not cool. I grew up, got a job, and am working for the Man; however, forty-something bloggers who alternate between whining about how poorly jobs they don’t have pay and writing 10,000-word-long semiotic screeds about Alinksy and catch-wrestling? Not cool. Doesn’t matter how many people whose favorite film is Mr. Smith Goes to Washington say otherwise, because them? Also not cool.

James Wolcott at Vanity Fair:

In a desperate, ghoulish plea for attention (now that even right wing sites are no longer linking to it), Protein Wisdom has published an editorial cartoon portraying President Obama as a gloating, unrepentant rapist with Lady Liberty his weeping victim, her torch lying broken at the foot of the bed. Rapist Obama tells Lady Liberty to stop whining, get herself cleaned up, and promises he’ll be back later with “friends,” i.e., a gang-rape.

For those slower cowpokes among Protein Wisdom’s armchair outlaws, the cartoon is helpfully titled “Rape of Liberty,” to ensure they won’t miss the message over the sound of their own chewing.

The perpetrator of this tawdry little exercise, a flagrant offender named Darleen Click, doesn’t care if you think this cartoon is racist because conservatives get called racist no matter what we do and we’re sick of it and besides “I made it a cartoon and not a photoshop and the “woman” is green. Deal, people.”

I find the logic of that statement somewhat elusive, though I suppose we should be grateful that it’s a symbolic green statue being shown forcibly violated in that Psycho room and not, oh, the Virgin Mary, virgin no more. With Easter coming up, perhaps Protein Wisdom will favor us with Lady Liberty hanging from the cross as Obama drives in the last nail–I wouldn’t put anything past those “desperadoes.”

Goldstein responds to SEK and Wolcott:

Two things. First, and for the record, I never declared myself to be “way cooler than everyone else.” I declared myself way cooler than Nishi — which is like declaring myself more handsome than a cadaver, or more Jewish than a Kennedy.

I will, however, happily update my declaration to include Scott Eric Kaufman, who couldn’t find cool were he to stumble pantless into a caribou orgy.

Second, only someone who has sex solely with his own beard could see in Darleen’s comic a “gang rape.” Me, I see a political metaphor. As for those subtextual slave tropes that so horrify Kaufman, all’s I can say is it’s a good thing Darleen didn’t draw a tree outside the window, or else we’d be treated to Scott’s erudite observations about monkeys.

Of course, I’m not “writing a scholarly book about comics.” Which, if Kaufman’s interpretive performance tells us anything, must require that one first become a cartoon. So take my criticisms with a grain of salt.

Meantime, two words, Scott: ice. dong.

****
update: I see that a freshly-moistened James Wolcott once again defied gravity’s odds and managed to jowel his way from divan to keyboard, where with fat pink powdered fingers he pecked out this description of Darleen’s comic: “a desperate, ghoulish plea for attention (now that even right wing sites are no longer linking to [protein wisdom])”. I can’t say that I agree with Mr Wolcott’s rather overwrought assessment of Darleen’s work, but on the second point I can’t offer much of an argument.

Frankly, I’m just glad someone besides me noticed.

Jeff Goldstein again:

This will be an especially personal post, but as it brings into sharp relief many of the ideas I’ve spent years writing about here, I figured it’s worth sharing.

As many of you know, a few evenings ago I received the following email from one of my old creative writing professors:

Jeff,

Would you mind taking my name off your “about” page on Proteinwisdom? I’ve always liked you and your fiction, and your and [name redacted] impetus to make that conference happen, at that moment in time, did a great deal to speed this program along. I was also simply grateful to have you in the program when you came along, because you were–and are–a very smart and intellectual fiction writer, a rare commodity still, to this day. But I am more and more alarmed by the writings in this website of yours, and I do not want to be associated with it.

Brian Kiteley

Here’s the context of that mention on my “about” page: “Some of the writers Jeff studied under are Rikki Ducornet, Beth Nugent, Brian Kiteley, and Brian Evenson.

My reply was terse:

Are you asking that I pretend I never studied under you?

And what, precisely, are you so “alarmed” by?

Me, I’m increasingly alarmed by the number of academics — in particular, those who teach writing — who find speech alarming. But then I guess I’m old fashioned that way.

Thanks, Brian.

As I first noted after receiving the email and thinking on it a bit:

This is, in effect, a repudiation of everything I’ve done here. And yes, it hurt me very much. I checked over my recent entries, and I saw a discussion on the expansion of the commerce clause by Scalia; a discussion of “process” and how it dovetails with the content of thought; a bit on language; a repudiation of the idea of cultural evolution as a move toward some progressive singularity; a discussion of the potential longterm political ramifications — particularly, the growth of a client class — that could arise in the wake of a law that nationalizes healthcare; a short fiction; a Leif Garrett post; and a couple of Corey Haim dispatches from the after life.

No doubt people like SEK will see such a note as befitting a person so foul as me. They will rejoice that others in academia see me as they do. Me, I see the email as a rebuke to everything I try to stand for — especially, that last ditch effort to engage in debate as one of a number of would-be public intellectuals.

Instead, what I write is evidently a cause for “alarm”; it represents some sort of worrisome disease of the mind and the soul that good righteous academic folk must necessarily distance themselves from — to the point that even someone who praises me for my intellect fears the taint of my name and words.

Presumably, academics like Mr Kiteley will continue to associate themselves with intellectualism. “Pragmatic” conservatives will continue to push GOP talking points, and secure their places as influential voices on the right. For my part, I am a pariah on both sides of the divide.

Since receiving that email, I’ve been mulling all this over, and today I decided to contact Brian Kiteley directly; after all, I’ve been to his house, we’ve had drinks together, and we’d always gotten along just fine — and though I hadn’t spoken to him in years, I figured the best way to discuss this would be as close to face-to-face as I could manage.

So I dialed him up and he answered. When I told him who was calling, he let out a forced “laugh” — I presume to show his bemused exasperation with my gall at having contacted him — and, when pressed, he called me a “jerk”.

His position seems to be that allowing Darleen’s comic to stand — the President raping lady liberty “is not a political cartoon and you know it,” he told me — was sick and irresponsible, the abetting of a civil evil that is far worse than, say, drawing Bush as Hitler, or insinuating an American President manufactured a war and sent men and woman off to die so he could exand his portfolio.

When I countered that I thought we were taught to believe that the best way to answer speech is with more speech (I also noted that I found the specific question of how exactly the cartoon was “racist” an interesting one, and that I found the rather heated discussion on that point intellectually useful), he reacted as if I couldn’t possibly believe such idealistic tripe. Finally, he cut me off, told me that I have his phone number and that he doesn’t have mine, and that we should keep it that way (whatever that means). And he hung up.

In between all this , his argument seemed to be that joking about owning guns and the President raping liberty is playing into the hands of the “extreme right wing”-types, many of whom presumably still live in the hills and marshes of “the deep south” and want to do the President real physical harm. When I pointed out that those same types likely wouldn’t frequent a “Goldstein”-run blog, he agreed, at least momentarily, before returning to the theme of the danger my ideas represent: this idea of a (soft) “civil war” revolted him, even though it was clear that I was speaking of a kind of culture war in which the power of the federal government is challenged by states based on concentrations of voters — a kind of libertarian idea for how those who believe in smaller government and the Constitutional directives for states rights over and beyond the ever-growing reach of federal government bureaucracies can bring an effective challenge. In fact, I pointed out that we are seeing that dynamic at work in the lawsuits states are threatening over Obamacare — precisely the reason I reintroduced that original 2005 post as (perhaps) prescient.

Let me now say this: when Brian first wrote me, I was hurt. Now, I’m just angry. And indignant. This idea — coming from a fiction writer, a creative writing program director, and a university professor who instructs on creative endeavors — that a political cartoon or comic he found distasteful should have been removed by me as potentially incendiary and harmful, flies in the face of everything we have ever been taught about free expression, art, political speech, and the exchange of ideas (often heated) in the public square. It is the reverse of tolerance masquerading as a claim to the moral high ground.

It is an Orwellian world in which we live when fucking novelists want to distance themselves from those who criticize the government. Were Kiteley’s disgust over the comic purely aesthetic, I could at least entertain his point. But that isn’t the case: instead, Kiteley objects to the content, and sees Darleen’s cartoon as the online equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded movie theater.

When I noted that people were free to comment on the site and voice their opposition, Kiteley told me of my propensity for stifling opposition — which would come as a surprise to the commenters who visited to call Darleen a racist, etc. Or to the number of people on the left — from Nishi, to SEK, to Jeralyn Merritt — I’ve invited to guest post here over the years.

This is our modern academy, distilled to this singular objective correlative. And make no mistake: the university where Kiteley teaches is NOT on the far left, by university standards.

SEK at Lawyers Guns and Money:

Goldstein’s old professor listed “a propensity for stifling opposition” as one of the reasons he wanted to distance himself from the site, but as Goldstein notes, that’s nonsense. Consider, for example, the condensed verion of the the rational arguments with which he and his commenters engaged my argument the other day:

Scott is a cartoon, a hack; a clearly clueless and remarkably dishonest bracketing brackety bracketer who stands on the sidelines cheering while Lady Liberty takes it in the cornhole. This pretentious character is a lying cock, a fucking pussy, and a fucking retarded scrotumless fuck wearing a hot-pink thong, or maybe white lace boyshorts, and he would not stop a rape in progress, but would instead go home and be so turned-on he’d write a paper about it. Effete attention whores like Scott Eric Robespierre are routinely beat up by bread and, like all leftist twatwaffles lusting for power, he is a haughty apparatchik with a lisp and a pedo beard who couldn’t find cool were he to stumble pantless into a caribou orgy. He roots for the Mets and is truly a prick.

Why wouldn’t an English professor want their name associated with the above? It’s a dazzling display of Oulipian restraint. After all, anyone can write a novel without the letter “e,” but writing in a way that attracts people who argue ad hominem and only ad hominemThat requires true literary talent.

Instapundit:

JEFF GOLDSTEIN: “It is an Orwellian world in which we live when fucking novelists want to distance themselves from those who criticize the government.”

James Joyner:

Now, I happen to find Click’s cartoon both amateurish and distasteful. Further, I disagree with its hamhanded message, both literally and philosophically.  (That is, while I voted against Obama and oppose his health care plan, the process by which he got it passed into law was legitimate. Further, I tend to be Burkean when it comes to matters of representative government, so the election of November 2008 is indeed all the mandate Obama needs until the election of November 2010.)

That said, I’m in full agreement with Jeff about university professors — much less professors of English — having this reaction to the expression of ideas.   Neither he nor Darleen Click are political leaders, who have some tangential responsibility to think about the impact of their words on their followers.  Rather, they’re public intellectuals applying their creative talents to expressing their frustrations as best they can.

It’s debatable whether blogs constitute “the modern academy.”  But it’s indisputable that it’s possible to live the “life of the mind” via blogging and I would argue that, in the main, Jeff is an outstanding case study.

Beyond that, professors rightly go to great lengths to protect academic freedom.  As outlined over the years by the American Association of University Professionals, it “comprises three elements: freedom of inquiry and research; freedom of teaching within the university or college; and freedom of extramural utterance and action.” So it’s bizarre, indeed, for an English professor to argue so passionately for the suppression of speech.

It would, frankly, never occur to me to contact a former student and, in a huff over some cartoon, demand that they remove my name from their biography page.  If I were, however, of a mind to criticize, I would engage the specific idea or utterance rather than try to hide our former relationship.  There is, after all, plenty of history of teachers engaging former students (and vice versa) in rigorous intellectual debate.  Indeed, it’s in the finest tradition of the academy.  Calls for removing offensive speech?  Not so much.

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